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Alejandro Valverde is retiring but Movistar is keeping his loyal helpers

Movistar confirms four contract extensions as Spain's lone WorldTour team looks to future without Valverde.

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Alejandro Valverde might be retiring this weekend at Il Lombardia, but Team Movistar is keeping two of its most veteran riders for at least one more season.

Imanol Erviti, 38, and José Joaquín Rojas, 37, both signed one-year contract extensions to stay with the Spanish WorldTour team in 2023. The pair was often at Valverde’s side in his most important wins.

Erviti already boasts 18 seasons in the WorldTour, all of them with Eusebio Unzue’s team, and the hard-working domestique will race at least one more season even without Spain’s “BalaVerde.”

“Next year will be different without Valverde,” Erviti said. “It will be strange not to have him around. He’s the reference, the leader of the team, and someone who always steps up. We are going to miss him, and to race these last few races with him, to help him out one more time, was something special.”

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Rojas, who hails from the same region in Spain as Valverde, agreed that Movistar will be a different team without retiring rider.

“It will be strange to race without Alejandro after so many years together,” Rojas said. “Right now I have one more year with the team and maybe we can do a few more still. Now it’s up to Imanol and myself to step into the role of road captains, but I have a lot of confidence in the young riders coming up and Enric Mas. For sure the future is bright.”

Movistar also confirmed contract extensions for Lluís Mas y Albert Torres.

Movistar looks all but certain to retain its WorldTour status after a nervous relegation battle in the closing months of 2022. Team boss Unzué hinted at “a few more” signings, and VeloNews reported that the team is close to signing Ruben Guerreiro.

Valverde, who will stay on with Movistar as an advisor in 2023, races for the last time as a pro on Saturday at Il Lombardia.

“If everything goes well then I will be one of the favorites,” Valverde said. “Of course, that depends on the race and how I’m feeling, but right now I feel like I can try to win the race. And I like the route this year before than the others.”